Twenty-two individuals from five South Dakota reservations were recently certified as course instructors for “Workin’ with Tradition,” a training program that helps individuals in rural Native communities prepare for successful employment. The instructor certification course was sponsored by the South Dakota Indian Business Alliance, a group of community partners dedicated to growing Indian business throughout the state.
“Because of the way the reservation system was initially set up, Native communities had not had any kind of economy to speak of for several generations. Now we are starting to see businesses sprout up, and we have a new set of challenges to deal with,” says Stacey LaCompte (Standing Rock Sioux), SDIBA Secretary/Treasurer, who helped administer the training.
With unemployment rates documented as high as 85 percent in some South Dakota reservation communities, business owners struggle in their hiring efforts due to a lack of qualified candidates.
“Economic development in Indian country is not solely about helping businesses start up. The “Workin’ with Tradition” workshop is addressing the next step – after businesses grow to the point where they need to hire employees,” says LaCompte. Many business owners in reservation communities that find it difficult to recruit and retain experienced employees are also having a hard time maintaining any growth their company experiences, and that impact extends out into the larger economy. LaCompte says, “The simple fact is that reservations just don’t have a history that has invested in their workforce, so this workshop is turning that around.”
The newly certified instructors, who are from various non-profit organizations, tribal and state programs, and other employers, will be able to deliver the “Workin’ with Tradition” course in order to help individuals develop the interpersonal skills necessary for entering into and advancing in the workforce. Seven of the workshop participants received scholarships from SDIBA to help with the costs of the certification and have committed to delivering a total of at least nine workshops within their respective communities over the next year.
“This training brought out a lot of confidence in the participants. I noticed people turning from shy to assertive. If this training can give the working class confidence, can you imagine what it will do for the job-seekers?” says LaCompte.
The “Workin’ with Tradition” curriculum is part of the nationally recognized “Workin’ It Out” program developed by Dr. Steve Parese. “Workin’ with Tradition” was developed in partnership with Dr. Steve Parese and Opportunity Link, a non-profit organization with a focus on community development, with input from Montana’s Blackfeet Nation, Chippewa Cree Tribe, and the Fort Belknap Indian Community. The curriculum is designed to address the unique challenges Native American job-seekers face on and off reservations while maintaining the integrity of their Native culture. The “Workin’ with Tradition” instructor certification program is now being delivered throughout the country.
About the South Dakota Indian Business Alliance
The South Dakota Indian Business Alliance (SDIBA) was formed in 2007 to cultivate effective and efficient business environments in South Dakota's Indian Country. In addition, SDIBA collaborates with partner organizations to maximize the benefits of joint efforts by the State and the Tribes to increase Indian entrepreneurship in South Dakota. SDIBA uses a comprehensive business development model that addresses Governance, Infrastructure, Finance, and Resources in order to develop sustainable businesses in Indian Country. The mission of SDIBA is to enhance Indian business development by leveraging partnerships and resources of diverse institutions and organizations.